Ensuring your own happiness

Learning to say “no”

I was recently in the car with my dad when he prompted me with, “If you could go back in time, would you have chosen a different major?” Without hesitation, I replied a solid “No.”

With the irrefutable presence of technology in our daily lives, I was admittedly surprised that he still wasn't all too pleased that I planted myself right in the middle of it. I say ‘still’ as this wasn't his first expression of doubt.

The first time had been when I was a senior in high school, deciding what I wanted to do with the next four years of my life and beyond. At the age of seventeen, refusing my parent’s wishes was a formidable thought in my mind, especially when I knew they only stemmed from wanting the best for me. They had dreams of me attending an Ivy League university and becoming a doctor. Standard of any Asian parent.

Needless to say, I did not live up to those lofty dreams. In fact, I said “No.” I had dreams of my own. I wanted to attend Carnegie Mellon University. I wanted to major in Computer Science and build Neopets (more on that on another day, perhaps, but I actually did write my college essay about the virtual pet website). Did I know what that really entailed? Of course not —what would the daughter of the owners of a Chinese takeout business know? I just figured I was in front of a computer enough hours a day, why the heck not have a legitimate excuse to be?

“Being in front of a computer” was probably not the main reason most people chose this major. It, of course, has changed, and luckily for me, goes back to my answer for my dad’s question —I would never dream of changing my decision. Was it really “luck”? I don’t think so.

I think knowing what you want, no matter how absurd the reason, is important. For my seventeen year old self, realizing that I was ultimately living my life for me, was also important. And it’s not just about knowing what you want, but also having the conviction to follow it through, despite all the doubt. Despite people questioning, “what is that? where is that?”, supplemented with “no one knows what that is.” Despite feeling you’ll be letting anyone down. Just know that by living someone else’s dream, you’ll only be letting yourself down.

Remember, when you’re happy, those who love you will also be happy. (Even if they still secretly want you to become a doctor…)